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Overview of Banff to Edmonton road trip
In my last post, I shared all detailed about our first road trip from Edmonton to Jasper and our 2-days itinerary. Today, I will be continuing from there on Banff to Edmonton road trip, a 3 days itinerary locals recommended scenic spots, adventures and white water rafting in Banff with family and kids under 10 years of age.
The journey starts from Jasper National Park check-out and scenic drive on Columbia Icefield highway. We stopped by at the top scenic spots like Mistaya Canyon, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier and Takkakkaw Falls in the Yoho National Park. After that we visited the most famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake making our way to the Banff Avenue. On our 2nd day in Banff, we visited best sights in Banff town such as Cave and Basin National Historical site, Cascade Gardens and Bow Falls. Same day, we also went for white water rafting Banff experience from Canmore. Last day, before leaving for Edmonton we went for chairlift via Ferrata in Norquay and visited Johnston Canyon.
Table of contents:
- How long is the car ride from Edmonton to Banff?
- Banff National Park admission fees
- Are the mountains bigger in Banff or Jasper?
- Banff to Edmonton itinerary – Visit Banff top attractions in 3 days
- Things to do in Banff National Park
- Attractions to visit in Banff National Park
- How we planned our Banff to Edmonton road trip
- Best attractions for families visiting Banff park for first time
- Things to do in Banff to Edmonton list that we couldn’t do
- Best hotels in Banff
- Best restaurants in Banff
- Banff to Edmonton road trip 3-day itinerary video tour
How long is the car ride from Edmonton to Banff?
The distance covered from Edmonton to Banff by road trip is 258 miles or 415 km, which takes about 4 hours to cover in normal traffic. The journey can be broken down to cover other scenic places on the way. Like we started from Edmonton and stayed in Jasper National Park for 2-days. Then we left for Banff and stayed here for 3-days. Making our way through Calgary, Drumheller to finally reach back to Edmonton and fly back to Toronto.
Banff National Park Admission fees (Banff to Edmonton)
As discussed in my previous post, the same National Park admission pass can be used in Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. The most popular options are day pass, family pass and discovery pass. For a family of four (2 adults and 2 kids under 17), staying in Jasper and Banff for a total of 4 nights and leaving before 4pm on the 5th day, the individual adult pass for 4 days is the best option. If you are planning to stay for more days, go with family pass. For more details visit the Canada’s official website.
Are the mountains bigger is Banff or Jasper?
Even though Jasper National Park is much larger than Banff National Park, Banff has drawned more popularity due to it’s distance from Calgary and places like Lake Louise, Canmore and Banff township. In terms of size, Jasper covers about 10,878 square kilometers while Banff covers an area of 6,641 square kilometers.
Banff to Edmonton Itinerary – Visit Banff top attractions in 3 days
Our itinerary was more relaxed than the Jasper 2 day itinerary, because we had additional day as well as their was less hiking and more relaxed experience in Banff National Park. Let’s see what Banff has to offer and what we experienced based on locals recommendations:
Things to do in Banff National Park
There are lots of activities to do in Banff National Park. Some of the popular ones include:
- Evening wildlife safari
- Winter spots
- White water rafting
- Banff Gondola ride
- Horse riding
- Tunnel mountain trail
- Cave tours
Banff National Park offers all sorts of adventures and activities for the enthusiastic person inside of you, but given the scenic attractions to visit and the time you chose to spend here, you might have to prioritize these experiences. We chose to see the top sights and do white water rafting as most of the activities we can do in Toronto as well.
Attractions to visit in Banff National Park
Banff has lots of amazing sights just like Jasper. Our aim was to stick with the most popular sights and have a relaxed experience admiring these places. The way we selected these places was by first creating a list of top attractions to visit in Banff National Park and then chose places based on reviews and distance from Banff Town. We also incorporated locals recommendations once we checked into Banff to finalized our itinerary. We relied mostly on trip advisor for reviews and google maps for time management. This way we had a beautiful itinerary that I would share with you in a while. Firstly, I will list all the attractions for you in case you want to chose based on your needs, in the hopes that if you reach my post that it saves you research time.
The following is the list of top attractions in Banff National Park:
- Lake Louise
- Moraine Lake
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Banff Gondola
- Lake Minnewanka
- Bow Falls
- Sunshine Meadows
- Tunnel Mountain Trail
- Cave and Basin National Historical Park
- Banff Avenue
- Two Jack Lakes
- Cascade Gardens
- Vermilion Lakes
- Johnston Canyon
- Mount Norquay
How we planned our Banff to Edmonton road trip
We booked our hotels in Jasper and Banff before arriving here. For the adventure tours we booked everything one day in advance. This was also because of the border closure that the visitors and tourists here due to covid-19 were fewer. I highly recommend to book all your tours in advance since it gets very busy here. After spending two days in Jasper, we drove to Banff.
Best attractions for families visiting Banff park for the first time
On our first day, we drove from Jasper to Banff stopping by at Mistaya Canyon, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier and Takkakkaw Falls. We ended the evening by visiting Lake Louise and Lake Moraine before checking-in at our hotel in Banff town.
We started our second day, by visiting Cave and Basin National Historical Site and then scrolled around Cascade Gardens before making our way to Canmore for White Water Rafting Banff experience. After that, we visit the Bow Falls and walked around Banff Avenue in the evening after dinner.
On our third day, we had to leave the Banff National Park before 4pm. We started our day with chairlift via Ferrata up to Mount Norquay and ended it with hiking at the Johnston Canyon. After which, we left for Calgary to go to Calgary Stampede 2021 the next day.
Let’s have a look at each of these attractions in some detail:
While diriving form Jasper National Park to reach Banff National Park, a lot of scenic stopovers come. We enjoyed stopping by and a few that were worth stopping by I will share with you here. The Mistaya Canyon is just a small hike down from the roadside and is a nice place for a few scenic pictures.
Just a drive down this roadside spot points towards a glacier that is shaped like a crowfoot. There are other spots like Mushroom Peak, Endless Chain, Waterfall and Snow domes covered with 100m thick snow.
The Bow Lake is famous for it’s turquoise water like many other lakes in this area. We wanted to also visit the glacier fed Peyto Lake which is just 2 km from Bow Lake but it was closed due to construction. Since, it was very busy at the Bow Lake, we parked on the lake side and took advantage of the small trails made on the roadside to reach the Bow Lake. As you drive down from Jasper to Banff, there is also a view point to see Bow Lake and you can go down from there to touch the water as well.
Takakkaw Falls is located in Yoho National Park in British Columbia. A little out of the way from Jasper to Banff but this place is a must see. This is my most recommended place of the entire experience, because here you can walk right to the mouth of the waterfall. The experience at this place is one of a kind. As you walk towards Takakkaw Falls you can feel the mist on your face and you can literally get rain wet as you go closer and closer to it. I recommend packing a light raincoat for attractions like this. Apart from this, the scenic drive as you go up the mountain to reach the falls has it’s own charm. You can also stop by to see historical tunnels that were build for the passage of trains.
The most highly rated lake in this entire area is the Lake Louise. I might have been all turquoise in my eyes by the time I reached this beauty that I wasn’t so thrilled with the experience. I felt I saw more scenic views at Jasper in the Valley of the five lakes but then that’s me. Lake Louise has it’s own charm as you walk around, kayak or just peace out at this place. It has a serene park feel to it. The view of Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise is iconic.
Moraine Lake has it’s own beauty. If you visit Lake Louise don’t forget to drive a little up to see the beautiful Moraine Lake. This Lake has it’s own scenic views. A little hike up from it’s parking lot you reach a spot that offers turquoise blue lake views on one side and acres of evergreen forest on the other. The forest is also home to wildlife and you can also see caves on the top where animals return at night.
A walk around Banff Avenue gives you city vibe as you enjoy music, food and chill in the downtown feel after a day’s worth adventure and scenic views.
Cave and Basin Historical Site
This historical site has natural thermal water and hot springs which are home to various species. As you walk around this conservatory area you can smell sulphur from the sulphur mountain. The Cave and Basin Historical site is a ticketed area which you can visit to see and learn about these natural phenomenons. Since, the cave was closed due to covid-19 we didn’t go in and instead walked around the trail and saw the springs. Beware, there are lots of biting flies in the thermal water area and they will leave you itchy. Cover yourself and use insect repellent if you can. There is a hiking trail at this site, but we didn’t go that way.
Cascade of time garden or Cascade gardens is a wonderful place to sit, admire and take pictures. This place is decorated with a variety of flowers, water features and accent pieces to make it a wonder. Let me share a few pictures to admire it’s beauty.
White Water Rafting Banff
We booked Chinook White Water Rafting tour in Banff in advance. This tour starts at 1:30pm everyday and is a four hour trip. A little drive from Banff to Canmore about 20 minutes you reach your destination. The tour offers a level 3 experience and takes kids above the age of 5. The tour starts with an introduction from Gabriel, who was also the white water raft champ in our tour. After which, we line up to get our wet suit and white water rafting gears like shoes, windshield, fleece if cold, water helmet. A little walk to our car we get dressed up ready to board the bus and reach the spot from where the tour leaves.
At this spot, they give us safety and guidelines instructions before we head over to the raft. Once settled in we all get practical instructions on how to row as a team. All the kids in the raft get turns to sit at the front and enjoy water splashes. The entire journey has about three to four drops and two calm stream areas where everyone can jump in the water and float. It is very refreshing and lots of fun. They offer pictures in the USB and recommend not to bring your gadgets but you have the option if you like.
After the white water rafting adventures, we spent sometime at the picnic area near Bow Falls and ate our dinner. We called it a day here.
We started our third day with chairlift via Ferrata to Mount Norquay which we had booked in advance as well. We booked it for eleven in the morning and arrived here half hour before. Since, it was not very busy we were able to hop on board before our booked time. This was a beautiful ride up Mt. Norquay and the views on Banff town from this mountain are stunning. We also learned why wild fires are so important for the forests and what happened when the first settlers tried to control it! I’ll leave that for you to discover. If you want me to tell you leave a comment and I will update it here!
Here at Mt. Norquay visitors can do skiing in winter and mountain climbing tours go everyday all summer long.
We ended our Banff adventures in our Banff to Edmonton road trip with Johnston Canyon. Unlike, the Maligne Canyon in Jasper which offers a natural hiking experience you get to walk on man made hiking trails here. This place gives you a different kind of vibe. The place offers a shorter 30 minutes hiking trail to lower fall and a longer one hour trail to upper fall which leads all the way to Ink Pots. We stopped by at the lower fall due to time constraints but enjoyed the walk through the cave here to go close to the fall.
Things to do in Banff to Edmonton list that we couldn’t do
- Radium hot springs closed due to covid-19 restrictions.
- Lake Minnewanka because it was far from Banff town and we saw many lakes already.
- Cave tours, there are two; namely Canmore cave tour and Grotto mountain cave tour that we couldn’t do because the minimum age requirement is 10 years and we had a seven year old accompanying us. The tour is four and half hours long.
Best hotels in Banff (Banff to Edmonton road trip)
Banff is expensive because it runs mainly on tourism. For an average $300 per night you get the most basic hotel room. Some people recommend to stay in near cities like Canmore to save on your hotel budget. We wanted to book a decent room to relax at night and looked for best deals on hotwire for that! And stayed in Ptarmigan Inn Banff which was the only hotel that offered buffet breakfast in our entire trip. We booked Jasper and Banff hotels in advance before leaving Toronto. We booked hotels in other cities on the way two to three days before reaching there!
Best restaurants in Banff (Banff to Edmonton road trip)
Banff has a lot of restaurant options ranging from fast food to fine dining. You can choose many options based on your budget. I will share options for halal foodies in a post soon and link it over here.
That’s all for our 3 days itinerary Banff to Edmonton which mainly covers our stay in Banff. Next I’ll be sharing Calgary Stampede, Drumheller and Edmonton visits and link in over here. Stay tuned!
Banff to Edmonton road trip 3-day itinerary video tour
Before you leave I have a video tour covering our wonderful stay in Banff. The video has two parts.
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